Category: Mark’s Blog
Mark’s Blog 2nd August 2018
As a church community, we have already been granted planning permission for our new building by Teignbridge District Council. The bigger and better question is what has the Lord granted us His planning permission for? In other words, what spiritual blueprints does He have drawn up in heaven with Dawlish Christian Fellowship’s name written on them? Of course, here I am not talking about our new building, but whatever it is that He wants to build in us – what designs He has on us as His people.
The Bible says that the Lord has works for us to do which He has prepared in advance (Ephesians 2:10). So what does He have in mind for us? On one level, we do not need to over think this. We are not called to do anything different from any other church in the world – to be obedient to Christ by teaching others to obey everything He has commanded (Matthew 28:20), which Jesus Himself summarises for us as to really to love God and really love people (Matthew 22:37-40).
So firstly, we need to rest in the knowledge that the simple desire to please God, pleases Him. The words ‘whatever you do’ (Colossians 3:17,23) imply that it doesn’t so much matter what good we do, but rather in whose name we do it. So let’s not overthink God’s will for us, but rather spend our lives in His name, getting on with doing things that will please Him because they are the very things that Jesus has commanded us to do (John 14:15).
Having done this, secondly, we need to learn to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). This means trusting the Lord that whatever He has brought into our midst, especially whatever has been tested and proven over time, is, in fact, His will for us, as we trust in Him (Romans 15:13).
We each have a unique, God-given calling to serve Him, and perhaps to reflect a particular aspect of His glory (2 Peter 1:10). In the same way, as a church, we are established to fulfil a specific purpose set by Him, in the time and space He has granted us – at one particular place, at one moment in history. So how are we to discover what this purpose is? How can we possibly discern what it is that He is calling us into, beyond the general calling that all churches must pursue?
Let’s start by watching as well as praying. Let’s pay attention to what He is doing, and look for His hand at work in our everyday circumstances. Let’s earnestly pray together much more than we have been doing, and as a whole gathered church, and seek to answer the question: What kind of church has Jesus been dreaming of in Dawlish? Then we just might begin to see something emerge and unfold in our midst that looks very much like God’s will for us.
Mark’s blog – 7th June 2018
Have you ever wondered why you get out of bed each morning? I know I have, at times. If only you could discover the reason you had been made, the very point to your life, then you might be more motivated to get up and go.
Well, you can.
You can, because you can discover your God-given spiritual vocation. And what I mean by your spiritual vocation is not your current or even your ideal job, be that paid or voluntary. Neither am I talking about your personal gifting, your love language, or the ‘sacred pathway’ through which you best hear from God, or connect with Him. It is none of these good things. Your spiritual vocation is something else altogether. And you can only ever receive it as a revelation from the Holy Spirit.
What am I talking about? Let me explain. Your spiritual vocation is the very meaning to your life, your secret purpose, or put less cryptically, why God made you, well, you. It’s what you would still be if you quit your current job. It’s what you will always be an advocate for, what you cannot help praising God for. It’s why you love Him, what you most admire about Him, which of His limitless attributes you find the most unspeakably wonderful. Here is a list of just a few of God’s attributes to get you thinking: Wise, Infinite, Sovereign, Holy, Joyful, All-Knowing, Faithful, Loving, Awe-Inspiring, Limitless in Power, Self-Existent, Self-Sufficient, Self-Controlled, Just, Truthful, Gentle, Unchanging, Merciful, Eternal, Good, Gracious, Patient, Kind, Peaceful, Present Everywhere.
That’s all well and good, but how do you discover this remarkable knowledge about yourself? To start with, don’t look to what you do, or to who you think you are – a grandparent, a manager, a cleaner, a student, or even a Christian. Instead, consider why you do it? What drives you? Reflect on this, by all means, but prayer is the only way you will ever really come to know this, because through prayer, you need God to tell you, through His Spirit, what only He knows about you. What is the secret ‘name’ that He has for you, and by which He calls you in person, and only you? (Even if others profess to have a very similar spiritual vocation, it will feel truly unique and personal to each person through God’s love). Pray deeply, and over time, and share what you hear with a ‘soul friend’ who can honestly test what you have heard, and confirm it for you. They will probably be better placed to see in you what you cannot see in yourself.
Once you have a handle on what it is that you most love about God, it will bring change. Firstly, it will help you to personalise your faith; you will discover something of ‘My Jesus’, rather than everyone else’s Jesus. A glorious foretaste of what is to come ‘…then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV). Secondly, it will help you to make good decisions. We are all inundated with a multitude of choices every day, but knowing your true purpose will help you to say ‘Yes’, and say ‘No’. You can use this knowledge as a decision-making tool to help you stay in God’s will for you. Thirdly, it will change the way you feel about mission, in the broadest sense of the word. Someone once said that ‘availability for mission’ is a key marker of spiritual maturity. Pursuing the very thing God that made you for will be irresistible to you, once it has been revealed to you, so ask, seek, knock (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). There is no other path to complete personal fulfilment. God’s mission will become your mission. Fourthly, and finally, knowing your spiritual vocation will help you to find God in ‘all things’, not just in some things, which is what Fruitfulness on the Frontline is all about. Discover this and you will enter into a more expansive experience of the reality of God’s sovereignty over all things, and you will find your true place in God’s wonderful universe.
We stand on the threshold of taking possession of the land the Lord is giving us, like the people of Israel in Joshua Chapter 3, on the night before they crossed the Jordan. Like them, we need to take this moment in and consecrate ourselves, ‘for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’ (Joshua 3:5). Are we ready for this? On the other side of the Jordan, once the stones were piled up, a whole lot of fighting began. Are we in fighting spirit? Have we the stomach for the fight?
If we don’t, we can still obey the Lord, by consecrating ourselves and asking Him to come in by His Spirit and impart something into us that will make the difference. Then we go in our frailty, inadequacy and unpreparedness and wait for God to show us just what He can do with a group of people who get right with Him, bind themselves together in prayer, and make themselves available to the world.
Watch this space! Watch and pray and see if the Lord will not take our breath away with what He has in store for us, and, more importantly, for them. May our battle cry be ‘Them, not Us’. Their needs over our own. Our lives spent for their salvation. This is the heartbeat of the Gospel. This is the very thing we are being called into. Let’s take a moment to stand on the bank of the great river we are about to cross and wonder at what is about to happen. This moment will not last much longer…
We’ve come to the end of the 30-week ‘Believe’ series, probably the longest series we’ve ever undertaken at DCF. Thank you everyone for your patience as this series has unfolded over the last year or so. As we moved through ‘Believe’, it become clearer and clearer to us that this material is not a ‘to-do’ list, but a ‘manifesto of grace’ – a summary of what we now are in Christ, and not of what we need to ‘try’ to believe. In fact, because of Jesus, we just need to live like we believe it is true because it is our new reality. We don’t need try to make it our new reality, as if it’s still about our effort; it’s all about Jesus’ performance, not ours.
At DCF, we continue to emphasise that discipleship is not a course, as a course will only ever be a pale shadow of the real thing. Courses are very helpful, but can reinforce the false idea that discipleship is really solely about having more information, or having the right information. Of course, we need to know some new information, but let’s never assume that is what we are pursuing. The ‘What’ we are pursuing is actually a ‘Who’.
To summarise all that we have learnt over recent years – discipleship is hard to describe or pin down because it is not a thing. It is intentional godly relationship itself. Such relationship is not merely a means to achieve discipleship, nor simply the result of discipleship, but discipleship itself. This is because we have a relational God, who can only ever be described in relational terms; some might even dare to suggest that God is so relational that, to some extent, He is His relationships. And the big idea of the Universe, what we call ‘the Gospel’, is that we are invited to enter into this relationality which is the very source of all things.
Now that’s a big idea to come to terms with as we reflect once more upon the God who became a human baby …